|Wendy Ord and Glen Samuel teamed up to write the film script, Rock Bottom.|
Trance Blackman photo/Special to eVent
The script for a movie, titled Rock Bottom, written by Lake Country-based filmmakers Wendy Ord and her life and business partner Glen Samuel, is one of a dozen in the running for one of three $5 million development agreements up for grabs.
The contest is part of the China Canada Gateway for Film script competition at the Whistler Film Festival held at the end of this month.
"Most people don't know this, but with a film script, you're into about 100 drafts," said Ord. "I'm exaggerating a bit, but
50 drafts anyway, before you're at a place where â€¦ every word is right and so on.
"That itself is a very challenging amount of work."
Inspired partly by a 1940s-era crime drama penned by Jeff Richards, the couple were hired by a producer to rewrite an existing script. The producer pulled out of the project, but Ord and Samuel liked what they had come up with, so they sought out the rights to it. Over the past there years, they have worked and reworked it to where it is now.
"It's quite a complex story," said Ord of Rock Bottom. "But at it's core, it's your typical hero's journey. We have the grizzled ex-cop in fedora and trench coat and he's fighting a faceless, kingpin bad guy, and there's a love story, but it's also a lot fun.
"I think it's what captured the attention of the Whistler Film Festival and allowed us to have one of the coveted positions as finalists. It's Casablanca noir, with futuristic, post-apocalyptic worlds, and action and comedy."
They, along with the 11 other entrants, who were announced on Oct. 31, will get a chance on Thursday to pitch a synopsis of their respective scripts to a panel of five international film experts and three major Chinese-based studios. When all are done, the panel will announce the same day who will get the three prizes.
With so much on the line though, Ord and Samuel aren't just going to stand up in front of the audience and panel and simply try to convince them their script is worthy of the time and money it would take to get it to the big screen. Instead, they've been putting all their efforts and ingenuity into coming up with something more.
They shot some footage recently in a Lake Country industrial building - using actors Andreea Bianchi, Dane Stevens, James Blonde and Chisa Glendenning - to give a taste of the film noir feel they're looking for in their script.
"We'll have that and we'll do as much of a dog and pony show as we can, to get the attention of the audience and the Chinese and international judges," said Ord.
They'll be under a strict time limit of seven minutes, followed by another seven minutes for a question-and-answer session with the panelists. The pressure will be on the pair to impress the experts and the three Chinese studios.
"It's a massive opportunity for Canadian script writers/producers," said Ord. "China is on the verge of becoming the biggest international power in the world, and because our film is futuristic â€¦ we'll benefit from having Chinese architecture, or a Chinese cast member.
Ord and Samuel bring close to 40 years of experience between them to their company, Mountain Lake Films Inc., as writers, directors and producers of dramatic films, TV series, pilots and short films.
Ord has been a producer on Telefilm Canada and CBC productions, and more recently, won accolades as director for her first feature film, the Canadian production Black Swan, which she also wrote and produced.
Samuels background was in trade and finance, but since turning his energies to film, he's built an impressive list of credits. That includes co-writer, co-producer and director on the 2010 30-minute Okanagan-filmed Tora, which featured David Suzuki, who worked closely with Ord. His screenplay for The Lesser Evil also won several U.S. scriptwriting competitions and is now in development.
According to Ord, being partners for the past four years in Mountain Lake Films, and in life, has made for some interesting times for the pair.
"There's a lot of knock-'em-down fights and black eyes around here," she joked. "But we operate under the 'two heads are better than one' philosophy."
They used that approach in writing the script for Rock Bottom, added Samuel. "We'll take each other's drafts of a particular scene, and sometimes we'll say, 'Yours is better than mine, so let's use yours,' and sometimes we'll merge the two," he said.
"Occasionally, it comes down to 'let's flip a coin.'"
Despite seeing several previous projects like Tora brought to life, winning the Whistler competition would enable them, and their script, to move to another level - and another market entirely. The Chinese production connection would mean Rock Bottom, if chosen, would be in production sooner rather than later.
China is considered the second-largest film market in the world, second only to the U.S., the industry growing at 30 per cent per year.
While Ord said Rock Bottom is a departure from what she and Samuel have done before, they feel they have a legitimate shot at getting their script made into a feature film, even competing against other entries, some with more than 25 films under their belts.
"We were looking for a commercial project and in Rock Bottom, there was a germ (there)," she said. "And then when we took it into this futuristic world and made it wall-to-wall action, and wall-to-wall stunts and visual effects.
"We realized we had a project that could become a cult hit."